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Lasting value

A recent survey by FMJ and Grundon Waste Management revealed that many organisations struggle to convince staff of the need to recycle. How can employees be encouraged to think and act more sustainably?

For many of us, a typical day at work might include a few cups of coffee from the machine in the corridor (a bottle of water if you’re feeling healthy), a sandwich from the supermarket around the corner (crusts discarded), plus perhaps a last-minute, overwrapped delivery of that birthday present you didn’t have time to buy from the shops (and bring home in your own reusable bag)…

Take our eating habits alone. According to a recent report by environmental charity Hubbub, British workers’ ‘lunch on the go’ habit is creating 10.7 billion items of packaging waste annually. That’s 276 items per person, including sandwich containers, packets of snacks, napkins and plastic cutlery. And that’s just one example. The reality is that much of what we discard isn’t being recycled or reprocessed, and single-use plastics are one of the biggest offenders.

So many of the things we do these days are based around convenience and saving time, at the expense of that one big precious goal – saving the planet.

The government’s resources and waste strategy recently set out a blueprint to help minimise waste, promoting resource efficiency and the drive towards a circular economy. It wants to move away from the economic model of ‘take, make, use, throw’ and instead embrace the recovery and regeneration of products and materials whenever possible, effectively giving them a new lease of life.

In the workplace environment, facilities managers are essential in helping to deliver these changes. They would be well advised to consult waste experts who have the required expertise at their fingertips.

One good example of how the circular economy works in practice is at West One Shopping Centre, in London’s busy Oxford Street. Last year, its waste management supplier Grundon Waste Management introduced a new paper cup recycling service; now more than 10,000 paper cups are collected every month and recycled into paper, which in turn is bought by West One.

In another innovative move, Grundon is currently exploring how single-use plastic bottles can be reprocessed and turned into ‘green’ office furniture. The fact that unwanted food waste (provided it is properly segregated) can be turned into green energy and bio-fertiliser is another example of the circular economy in action.

Grundon’s Steve Hill says: “Initiatives such as these are demonstrating real-life practical examples of the way different types of waste can be repurposed and given a new lease of life. Facilities managers have a responsibility to meet or exceed employees’ sustainable behaviour, and we work closely with them to review the type of waste being produced, how it is disposed of, and what changes can be made to improve recycling and reprocessing opportunities. The easier we can make it for employees to think and act more sustainably, the quicker we can make a difference.”

Single-use plastics is one of the main targets. Hill says that removing single-use plastic cups and replacing them with china cups, using glasses and jugs for water, and even encouraging employees to bring in their own lunch in a reusable plastic container can all start to make a difference. Although this may mean some additional cost at first, companies can often make up the difference as waste management costs are likely to reduce in the longer term.

Recently, a survey of facilities managers undertaken by FMJ in conjunction with Grundon revealed that the inability to engage with staff about the need to recycle is the number one barrier to improving performance, closely followed by restrictions such as the lack of space for containers (full results of the survey will be available at the Facilities Show this month).

Working with waste experts who take an individual approach and the time to help with employee engagement programmes will reap rewards, says Hill. “There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, and that’s why we take a bespoke approach. We carry out audits, we advise on the different types and locations for bins for maximum usage, we provide posters and signage and, above all, we get out and talk to people, both with our waste awareness days and through day-to-day activities.

If you’d like to speak to one of Grundon’s experts about improving your business’ waste management performance, visit stand FM5230 at Facilities Show 2019.


1. Conduct a waste audit
Take a walk around your premises and undertake a visual survey. Get expert insight by inviting a reputable waste management company along to help.

2. Know the sources of your waste
Identify where waste is arising and what currently happens to it. Swapping under-desk bins and replacing them with centralised recycling points improves segregation and boosts recycling rates.

3. Remove single-use items
Remove single-use items such as plastic cutlery, cups and food packaging – replacing them with steel cutlery, drinking glasses, china cups and plates.

4. Look to amend your business processes
Find ways to reduce the waste you generate by designing waste out of your business process  – do you really need to print so many emails and documents?

5. Review your current arrangements
Ensure the frequency of collections matches the volume and types of waste your business produces.

6. Understand the cost of your waste
Analyse your waste management bills and calculate your monthly costs. Segregating waste can be more cost effective (such as sending food waste to anaerobic digestion), and may even earn you a rebate.

7. Improve segregation to boost recycling rates
Improving segregation not only helps to increase recycling rates, it can also help to reduce costs by taking heavy items such as glass and food out of your general waste.

About Sarah OBeirne


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